The horizon of a therapy for rare genetic diseases: A “druggable” future for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva

Serena Cappato, Francesca Giacopelli, Roberto Ravazzolo, Renata Bocciardi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare genetic condition characterized by progressive extra-skeletal ossification leading to cumulative and severe disability. FOP has an extremely variable and episodic course and can be induced by trauma, infections, iatrogenic harms, immunization or can occur in an unpredictable way, without any recognizable trigger. The causative gene is ACVR1, encoding the Alk-2 type I receptor for bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). The signaling is initiated by BMP binding to a receptor complex consisting of type I and II molecules and can proceed into the cell through two main pathways, a canonical, SMAD-dependent signaling and a p38-mediated cascade. Most FOP patients carry the recurrent R206H substitution in the receptor Glycine-Serine rich (GS) domain, whereas a few other mutations are responsible for a limited number of cases. Mutations cause a dysregulation of the downstream BMP-dependent pathway and make mutated ACVR1 responsive to a non-canonical ligand, Activin A. There is no etiologic treatment for FOP. However, many efforts are currently ongoing to find specific therapies targeting the receptor activity and the downstream aberrant pathway at different levels or targeting cellular components and/or processes that are important in modifying the local environment leading to bone neo-formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number989
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Activin A
  • Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs)
  • Drug discovery
  • Drug repositioning
  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP)
  • High-throughput screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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